There are Three American Speech Sounds Produced in the Nasal Cavity

There are three American consonant speech sounds that do resonate in your nasal cavity.  They are /m/, /n/ and /ng/ as in “song.”  When these sounds are produced, sound waves vibrate in your nasal cavity, producing a buzzing vibration in the bridge of your nose that can be felt with your finger tips.  These are the only nasal speech sounds. Any other sounds that vibrate in the nasal cavity would be considered an incorrect voice placement and the result would be speaking with speech that sounds nasal.

Try it.
Say “mom,” “name,” and “rung.” You should have felt a buzzing vibration in the bridge of your nose.  You should not feel a buzz with all other non-nasal sounds. If you feel a buzz in your nasal cavity with non-nasal speech sounds, too much nasal resonance is being used. If this is your feedback, you are speaking with nasal speech.

A Simple Test for Nasal Speech

Place your fingers on the middle portion of the bridge of your nose and say the following words:

Sour       Hot Sauce       Cat       Book       Bracelet       Briefcase       Tiger

A buzzing vibration should not have been felt because these words do not contain the sounds that resonate in your nasal cavity.  If a buzz was felt then your voice was placed too high in your nasal cavity, creating nasal resonance or known as nasal speech.

  • The drink was sour.
  • I went to ride the bike.
  • Please pass the hot sauce.

CAUTION: Be careful with words that contain the vowel sound /a/ as in “cat” and /aw/ as in “awful.” These sounds can easily be projected up into your nasal cavity, creating nasal-sounding speech, because the jaw was not lowered enough and oral resonance could not be obtained.

Practice saying the words below that focus on the /a/ and /aw/ vowel sounds. If you feel a buzz from your nasal cavity, your speech and voice are mainly resonating in your nasal cavity. Lower your voice placement in your pharyngeal and oral cavities to avoid nasal resonance. Lowering your jaw appropriately for the sounds and speaking with good range of motion with your speech articulators will help you place your voice more in the oral cavity, farther from your nasal cavity.

Pass       Laugh       Raft       Apple       Taffy       Have       Cash       Awful       Follow       Off       Bought       Coffee       Officer       Honest

Learning How to Produce a Resonant Sounding Voice and Say Good Bye To Nasal Sounding Speech Forever!

1.  To Improve Awareness, Identify Voice Placement in Other People.
Now that you are savvy with the three different types of resonance, listen to other people while they are speaking and estimate where they are “placing” their voice. Does the pitch sound too high?  Is the quality nasal?  Having awareness about where other people are placing their voice will strengthen your ability to recognize good and poor resonant voice qualities. Find speakers with strong vibrant voices and speakers with nasal sounding speech.  Randomly select three people you see on a daily basis at work or in your personal life and estimate where they are “placing” their voice.

2.  Feel Your Articulators Move and Use Full Range of Motion.
The speech articulators are your jaw, lips, teeth and tongue.  They all articulate and move. Many American speakers (people who mumble) and foreign American speakers do not always use their full range of motion to produce specific sounds or move their jaw enough for good oral resonation.  During conversational speech, move your jaw and the rest of your speech articulators more fully.  It may feel strange at first, but like anything else, with practice it will become natural. Have your tongue move up to your gum line to say those consonant sounds. During your practice use the range of motion from your lips and tongue to say every sound in every syllable. This is crucial for the goal of being able to resonate your voice and to speak with crisp and clear articulation.  If you speak using your speech articulators fully, you will focus the sound in your oral cavity and not speak with nasal speech.

This is important for the /a/ short vowel sound as in “apple” or “rat.”  When your mouth is not opened wide enough, the sound is more likely to resonate through your nasal cavity.  Having awareness of your mouth placement and moving your speech articulators during conversation will assist you with sounding less nasal and more vibrant. Failing to open your jaw wide enough is common for many people, particularly if English is not your native language. The key for saying goodbye to nasal speech is to speak using your articulators fully.

3.   Visualize Where You Want the Sound to be Placed.

  • If the sound of your voice is too high:
    • Visualize speaking from your breastbone or shoulder area.  For many people this will automatically lower their voice from the nasal cavity and place it more within the oral and pharyngeal areas.  Following this strategy will create a voice that is richer and sounds more commanding, opposite of nasal speech characteristics.
  • If the sounds of your voice is too low:
    • Visualize speaking from your eyes.  This will bring your voice up high and produce a warm and sincere tone quality. For people who have been described as sounding like a “cold speaker,” speaking with melody and focusing your speech higher in your oral cavity will be a beneficial strategy.

Thank you for your interest in our “Look Inside” article for “How to Speak Like a Broadcaster and Lead Like a CEO” book. I hope you have a sense on how helpful the book and training can be for your speech, voice and public speaking goals. We offer training in these areas and more.